Not long ago Rodeo Drive was the kind of place that people would kill to visit. It was one of the most beautifully kept roads in the state of California with its amazing landscaping and carefully laid out design. Plus the stores were filled with the most impressive – and expensive – objects that you could find anywhere in the world. It was nothing to visit one of these stores and find a suit that was as ugly as sin itself that cost more than someone’s car, or a piece of jewelry that was more expensive than what the average person made in his or her entire lifetime before the fall.
If the people that flocked to these stores could see them now they’d die instantly from the fright of what lay before them. Where there were once amazingly appointed boutiques and other specialty shops there was now only the skeletal remains of yesterday. Those ugly dresses of yesteryear were now nothing more than tattered old rags either from weathering or from the fall out of Judgment Day. The power was out and the alarms on the broken jewelry cases had long ago fallen silent. Most of the expensive merchandise was gone, as any would expect, and what was left behind wasn’t in high demand either. It wasn’t like anything that anyone could imagine.
Plus the customers who frequented these stores weren’t exactly the kind of people you’d expect to see in the most expensive drive in the world. Movie stars, successful doctors, and celebrities were once the only people bold enough – other than tourists – to frequent these stores before. They wore designer clothes, drove cars that cost more than three times what the average guy could afford, and had spray tanned bodies as they wandered through the shops like mindless zombies. Now they catered to the exact opposite of the people from yesterday.
The homeless had been driven away from the street because of the blight that they caused on the economics of the stores. Every once in a while a refugee would find his way there only to be shooed away like a pigeon the next morning. Now the destitute without a roof over their heads were the clientele that these stores focused on; and their wares were now free for the taking. The product of notoriety though had changed the most. The jewelry, the designer clothes, the works of worthless art weren’t the most commonly sought after merchandise in this brave new world. The commodities desired now were simple bread, water, and a room over your head.
John Connor was such a consumer. Originally he’d believed that he’d had those products in abundance back at the derelict hotel that James Ellison and his squad of refugees had found; however, the reality of the situation had made him realize otherwise. His mother had made him live by the credo that no one was ever safe and, as long as he was with Ellison, that statement was truer than ever before. If what Weaver had told him was true then Ellison was the enemy, or at least in league with him, and John couldn’t risk letting him in too deep with everything that they had planned. Topanga wasn’t a mission that he could fail in. This was just as important as the missions where they attacked Cyberdyne when he was a child; only this time the mission would decide how the entire future of the human race would play out. If Ellison had been corrupted then he wasn’t one of them anymore.
Not that he was ever one of John Connor’s favorite people. James Ellison had always been more trouble than he was worth ever since they first ran into him. Ellison had been the FBI Special Agent charged with bringing in both he and his mother; Ellison was the one that had made their lives hell for so long for a crime they never even committed. The police killed Miles Dyson and covered it up making Sarah the prime suspect. It was James’ mission to bring them to justice.
In many ways he was just as dogged as one of the cyborgs. No matter where they went or what they did somehow Ellison would always get close to them and, most times, too close for comfort. Even when they jumped forward through time and faked their own deaths Ellison had never really given up his pursuit. Somehow he knew. When Cromartie came forward and joined the fray things really became more interesting; however, somewhere along the lines, Ellison became even more complex. It was he who led the police to Sarah; it was Ellison that followed him and Cameron. He wished he’d killed him when he had the chance. Somehow though he must have gained the trust of John’s mother – especially if what he said were true. Deep down inside John knew that at least that part of Ellison’s story was true.
They couldn’t risk Ellison corrupting the survivors. John and his team had managed to escape from John Henry’s personal laboratory aboard the remains of the Aircraft Carrier Enterprise relatively unscathed. Actually it’d been a bit too easy as far as he was concerned, but John was always the one to look the gift horse squarely in the mouth and point out its nasty teeth. Originally they were supposed to meet with the last of Ellison’s group back at the dilapidated hotel on the outskirts of town, but John had come to other ideas. Years ago his mother had established a long secret outpost buried beneath Rodeo Drive. Under cover of darkness John had confirmed it still existed a few months ago, so now it was fulfilling its destiny.
Soon it would be his time to fulfill his own; only it wasn’t one he’d anticipated. According to history it was John Connor who would lead humanity against Skynet; it was John Connor who would teach humanity how to trash the metal bastards and save the world. While he was on the Enterprise his world was turned upside down and there was no going back. Jesse Flores was dead, he knew that now, and Catherine Weaver was the person he’d dealt with these last few days. Catherine explained everything to him. John Henry, her AI built to protect humanity, had come up with a rather radical way of doing it. He’d concluded that humanity’s only way to survive was by going digital in a sense and having their bodies connected to a hive mind of sorts not much different than that of the machines. Hell, he’d made his little test subjects into machines. Chips were installed directly into the bases of their skulls to make them the dutiful little soldiers that John Henry needed. It had made an entire army out of flesh and bone.
Just the thought of it made John’s skin crawl, but not as much as what came next. According to Weaver there was only one way that they could win this war and it was something that he’d never have thought possible before. More to the point if his mother, Sarah Connor, had been here she’d shoot him for even considering this to be a possibility. According to Weaver the only way that they’d be able to infiltrate and complete their mission at Topanga Canyon was with Skynet’s help in the fight.
Again his stomach churned. For his entire life he’d been brought up knowing that Skynet was his enemy; that Skynet wanted nothing more than for him to be dead. It’d sent machines back through time more than once to see to his death. The first went back to kill his mother and failed because of Kyle Reese. The second went back to kill him as a child, but was stopped by a reprogrammed T-800. Then the third came in the form of Cromartie who tried to find him for several months before tracking him because of Ellison. Now he had to make an appeal to Satan to try to reconquer heaven. Had Weaver’s circuits been corroded over the years? She believed that she’d lived through Judgment Day more than once so maybe, just maybe, all the years had gotten to her. Maybe she had a machine version of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia? Maybe this was a machine’s version of old age finally catching up? He knew it wasn’t true but, for a second or two, it gave him some comfort.
Until he remembered what was coming. As much as he could pray to God that he wouldn’t have to work alongside Skynet he understood that there was really no other option. It was true that they’d managed to acquire a little over a hundred people during their sortie aboard the Enterprise, but those weren’t enough people to survive a direct assault against Topanga Canyon. Topanga was originally a Skynet outpost where it was completing its temporal experiments to launch assaults upon the past. John Henry knew this and launched a full assault against the facility in effort to capture it. He won the battle and Skynet was driven away; leaving the once benevolent AI in control of the most devastating weapon ever devised. Skynet would want that outpost back and it’d need help to do it. From what Weaver said the Cyborg Resistance was doing far better in this war than both the Human Resistance and Skynet combined. Their numbers were nearly triple what was available, but the humans were committed to winning and, in Weaver’s estimation, that was the deciding factor. It was the one thing that the machines hadn’t replicated.
“General Connor?” A voice said from behind him interrupting his thoughts.
John accepted the interruption. He turned from the broken window and looked at the tall African man that stood before him. The man was wearing green fatigues that he’d found among the clothing stores inside the bunker and he had a cap on his head, but the bill was facing backward instead of forward. There was something about the soldier that screamed strength, but there was a quiet too that harkened back to the General’s spiritual side. It’d long been hidden because of the machines, but it was still there and John could sense it beneath the snow.
“What is it General Perry?”
“We’ve been able to outfit each member of the team with suitable weaponry,” he explained to his commander, “but our numbers aren’t too great.”
Connor smirked, “They never are, General, but that’s something we have to learn to deal with. Just tell the men that they need to be ready to fight when the time comes and that we’re doing this for our entire species.”
“Sir,” he spoke gravely, “permission to speak candidly?”
“Always,” he was young compared to General Perry and it wasn’t something that could be downplayed. Perry had been a soldier for all of his life and, actually, the commanding officer of Presidio Alto Military Academy had spoken to Uncle Derek about being under his command once. By all rights it should really be John who was saluting him, but Weaver had been far more capable an actress than John had ever imagined. It was hard to believe that she could pull the wool over the trained soldier’s eyes, but she had.
Perry betrayed no emotion and spoke directly to the issue troubling him, “General, do you really think that we have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning this battle? That base is patrolled, it has an automated defense grid, and a mine field separating us from it. We’re on strung out shape as it is and most of these people aren’t soldiers like you and me. Most of these people are just people that got drafted into service because they could stand for longer than two seconds before they lost their goddamned balance.”
“I suppose that people said the same thing about the British in 1776,” John pointed out. “Citizens became soldiers back then and created one of the greatest countries in the history of the world. You never know what tomorrow’s going to bring.”
“I don’t seem to recall any mentions of mechanical men serving on the British side though,” Perry commented nonchalantly.
John shrugged, “There’s really no way of knowing the answer to that one, but the point is still valid. Those men, women, and children out there want to be free and they’ll fight to get their freedom back from the machines, General. Any of us would and we are.”
“You’re our leader and I respect your opinion,” he let his tactical mind roam for a moment as he went over his own battle plans, “but this isn’t going to be easy. With these weapons those machines have the advantage.”
“We’ll get more weapons as time passes,” General Connor reassured. “Plus, I already have an idea or two of how to rectify that situation.” He didn’t go more in depth but the plan was already well underway.
Justin Perry let air escape from his mouth but it was more a hiss than a laugh, “So tell me something, does your plan involve us getting a couple M1 Abrams Tanks, a handful of M2 Bradley Transports, and maybe a dozen choppers in the air? Those are the only ways I can see us getting close enough to that base to even make a dent in their defense grid and that’s if we’re lucky.”
“Trust me, General, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you what we were getting,” Connor said taking a seat at the makeshift desk he’d created from a broken filing cabinet. “Hell, I’m not even too sure if I agree with what we’re getting but we don’t have many choices.”
“I have a pretty good imagination,” answered the soldier gruffly.
“As do I,” Connor countered, “and you’ll see soon enough. For right now though I need the men we have on the line and preparing for combat.” Then he remembered something else. His mother had always recorded messages for him for as long as he could remember. Dozens of copies were made and she kept them at the bases that she’d build across the countryside. When they arrived here, John found them and realized what an asset they’d be. While they contained messages for him they also had detailed reports on what Kyle Reese and the T-800 had told her about Skynet’s war machines. Perry could put it to use.
“You’ll find a collection of old cassette tapes and a player inside the armory inside a lock box. The password for the box is 1 – 9 – 8 – 4. I’m sure what you’ll find inside you can put to good use.”
Perry shot a quizzical look, “What’s on the tapes?”
“Something my mother left me for a rainy day,” John didn’t reveal too much.
“Well it’s pouring so lets hope it’s something good,” he walked toward the door, “I’ll head there now and listen to what the tapes have to say; but I only hope it isn’t some candy ass music that she liked listening to.”
General Connor shook his head in the negative, “Mom wasn’t a very big music fan, General Perry.”
“I like her already,” he stood at attention waiting to be dismissed.
”Dismissed,” Connor approved his departure and watched as the man left the room. He turned back toward the window and wondered how his envoy was doing. By now she should’ve reached her destination; she should be back at the base to save his father.